Greece was summoned to the EU Court of Justice for failures in its railway infrastructure just two weeks before a fatal train crash killed at least 46 people.
The disaster took place on February 28, when a high-speed passenger train collided with a freight train at Tempi near the city of Larissa in Central Greece.
The European Commission referred Greece to the EU’s top court on February 15, citing concerns over the country’s railway infrastructure a matter of weeks before the deadly incident.
Greece referred to EU Court of Justice over railway infrastructure
Greece was reportedly referred to the EU Court of Justice by the European Commission after concerns were raised that Greece was “failing to fulfill its obligations under the Single European Area Directive” with regard to its railway management.
The directive stipulates that EU member states must facilitate contractual agreements between government bodies and railway infrastructure managers to outline plans for investment into railway infrastructure.
Governments and infrastructure managers are expected to adopt measures to improve line speed, customer satisfaction, and environmental protection.
Greece’s railways have a poor regional reputation and have been considered among the worst in Europe. According to data from the EU’s railway agency, Greece’s railways have the most fatalities per kilometer recorded over the past decade.
The incident, which occurred on February 28, was caused by a collision between a passenger train and a freight train. According to the latest reports, at least 46 people were killed by the accident, with dozens injured.
Survivors said several passengers were thrown through the windows of the train cars due to the impact. They said others fought to free themselves after the passenger train buckled, slamming into a field next to the tracks.
A fire erupted after the collision, making it more difficult for first responders to search for injured people.
A Red Cross rescuer described the tragic situation he witnessed at the scene of the tragedy.
“In the first three carriages, it was not possible to get too close as there were temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees,” he told Mega TV.
“The situation was tragic, as there were many dead. We found 4 to 5 dead bodies in the fields.”
The exact cause of the collision has not yet been determined pending further investigation, although speculation is rife. Two railway officials were questioned by police but not detained.
Experts have said that the accident was probably caused by human error. The president of the train drivers’ association, Kostas Genidounias, revealed that the electronic systems that warn drivers of danger ahead have not been working for years.
“The unthinkable has happened. The two trains were found on the same track,” he told public television ERT.
“Nothing works, everything is done manually. We are ‘in manual mode’ throughout the Athens-Thessaloniki network,” he said, emphasizing that neither the indicators, the traffic lights, nor the electronic traffic control is working.